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Face Off: should we encourage children to believe in Father Christmas?

Posted at 5:15 pm, December 23, 2011 in News

A jolly red-faced man is stumbling around your house at 2am, entangled in tinsel and possible slightly the worse for wear, but is it daddy, or Santa Claus? We ask: should we encourage children to believe in Father Christmas?

Yes:
Lisha Aquino Rooney, contributor to www.blogher.com; parent
‘Yes, you should pretend. It’s cruel not to. If parents insist on spoiling this magical part of Christmas, perhaps they can at least share with their children that what Santa represents exists – family gatherings, familiar smells of food in warm rooms, laughter, light, songs, good cheer and the anticipation of unwrapping a gift that may be something for which they’ve always wished. ‘Regardless of age, I believe what Santa represents will always exist. As a child, I remember wondering how Santa could be at a local shopping centre the same time he was at a parade in a city across the country. I cottoned on to the fact that they couldn’t all be Santa, but it didn’t matter to me. I was still giddy when I saw the imposters in red velvet suits. They only wanted to delight children, to make them feel the magic of Christmas. ‘A couple of days ago, I read “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” to my four-year-old. This book is about the letter written by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897, asking him whether Santa Claus really existed. The editor, Francis Pharcellus Church, ran an editorial in the paper to answer the question and address the philosophical issues behind it: “Virginia, your friends are wrong. They do not believe except for what they see. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then; no poetry, no romance. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.” ’Read Lisha’s blog at oomphalos.co.uk.

No:
Chris Bourn, Time Out international editor; parent
‘If you’re still attending primary school and you’ve read this far, you’ll have by now got the gist and the damage is done. Sorry about that. First of all, though, what are you doing reading Time Out? You’re not in our demographic yet. Haven’t you got an Airfix Optimus Prime to be getting on with? Secondly, now that the adult world’s been busted, you may be experiencing a wash of relief that the sanctity of your home isn’t being annually violated by a fat, omnipresent breaker-and-enterer. ‘Or – and this is how I felt when I noticed, aged seven, Santa’s trademark blue wrapping paper in our spare-bedroom cupboard – you might be feeling suddenly hollow and confused as to why your parents would want to lie to you. Lisha Aquino Rooney refers to the “Yes, Virginia” book, where newsman Francis Pharcellus Church offered 400 words of impressive ontological proof of the fat man’s existence. Oh how America chuckled. But look what happened when that particular generation grew up: McCarthyism, Nixon and mass anxiety over the colour red. ‘Truth as a lofty ideal is all well and good, you might contend, but isn’t Santa just a source of harmless fun lifting our spirits during the giftgiving season? What about indulging little ones’ imaginations and nurturing the magic of childhood? Fine, but you don’t need Santa for that. You just need toys. The magic of childhood has nothing to do with believing in Santa and everything to do with not knowing about sex. And if you’re of primary-school age and still reading this: oops, the cat’s really out of the bag now. Go ask your parents.’

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